I recently walked into a restaurant and saw an entire family, parents and three kids, all on their own devices. Heads buried down, not looking or talking to each other. How depressing, I thought. Fast-forward 20 minutes later, and I've handed over my own phone to my 3-year-old to keep him from using everyone's water glasses as a gigantic science experiment. That will teach me to be so smug.
The struggle is real for all of us to keep cellphones from dominating our lives. Or, at the very least, our meal times.
Now some restaurants are trying to make the struggle a little easier. Sarah's Corner Cafe in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, offers a 10 percent discount to families if they can go the entire meal without looking at their phones. Yup, that means no quick glance of Twitter or opening your latest Snapchat. The sign says it's for families of four or more, but the owner says he will honor it for families of all sizes.
Once you tell your waiter that your family is taking the challenge, you drop your phones in a basket and they bring old-school games like hangman and tic-tac-toe to the table. The owner hopes this will allow families to connect while waiting for their food. The idea came after seeing a family who came in every week who was constantly on their phones.
Café owner Barry Lynch told ABC News, “I just thought it was such a shame not to have more time together just to talk,” he said. “Look at my eyes. I’m here with you. How was your day?”
Fast food giant Chick-fil-A has also done something similar. Last year, they offered free ice cream if you could just put your phone away for the entire meal. My kids were very on board with that plan. And we did manage to earn our dessert!
I think it's great when restaurants offer an incentive to stay off phones because I absolutely can get through my Cobb salad without seeing my friend Margie's new puppy on Facebook. At least I think I can. It's a very cute puppy, and she's probably posted a new video by now — good Lord, how long does the food take to come?!
Even if your fave eatery doesn't offer any incentives to actually talk to your family, there is another way. Leave your phone in the car. It will be there when you return. And I promise, your withdrawal symptoms will probably fade before the bill comes.